Children and adolescents learn so much about how to navigate obstacles simply by watching their parents. They are like little sponges that soak up a lot of what they observe from their own homes and people in their lives to understand how the world works. This means that your kids are paying attention to you even when you can’t always tell, and that makes it important for you as their parent to show them healthy ways to manage difficult emotions.
You can do this by first learning how to control your own big feelings. If you are stressed out from working overtime, it will be hard for you to have the energy to be fully present with your kids at home. They might start to pick up messages that work is most important or that self-care isn’t a priority. Take a nap if you need more rest. Adjust your schedule so that you can maintain a healthy work-life balance. Children can feel when you are stressed.
Show your kids how to manage their anger by modeling healthy and effective communication. I know for the most part parents try not to argue in front of their kids, but sometimes they might eavesdrop or overhear you. If your partner upsets you, don’t yell or cuss. Identify a feeling word that best describes how you feel and express it to them calmly and politely. Talk about what is making you feel that way, what you need from them to feel better, and don’t be afraid to set healthy boundaries if your conversation starts to escalate. Children that grow up in households with high conflict, yelling, and violence internalize messages that this behavior is what’s to be expected in relationships.
You can also help your child learn how to practice deep breathing whenever you see them get frustrated, anxious, angry and/or sad. Even with toddlers, you could hug them tight while you model deep breathing and allow them to feel your slow inhale and exhale. They’re more likely to try it themselves if they see you do it first and notice they feel calm while doing it too.